The Season 2016-17: Bradford

BRADFORD

You can see everything I have on the Tornadoes in 2016-17 here –>  BRADFORD

Win/loss record: 14-13 in dual meets. Please review the attached document for a summary of the Tornadoes’ performance in IBT events.

Season in a nutshell: Bradford was a program that was a little all over the place. The last team in the Northeast coverage area to start competition (first match on December 13), the Tornadoes had too many unfilled weight classes to defeat the stronger teams, but Bradford could make most duals interesting with the power of some of the kids that were in its lineup. After a 1-5 start in duals, the Tornadoes then won five of their next six, then bookended a six-dual win streak with a pair of three-losses mini-streaks. IBTs were also a little tricky because of numbers, but the Tornadoes did put enough together to overcome five other teams at District 4 and finish third. Three of the Tornadoes’ top six wrestlers (five of which wrestled in the post-season) will be graduating, including their top upper weight and their two most consistent middles, but some decent ability also returns. With more spots filled, things could continue to look up for Bradford in 2017-18.

2016-17 MVP: Bradford being away from a major population center allows any solid Tornado wrestler to escape some notice, but every 220 in 1A-Region 1 knew who senior Eddie McCormick was after McCormick ripped off 20 victories in a row mid-season this year. He had a decent start, with a third-place finish at Battle on the Border at Yulee, but that tournament was just the start of McCormick’s run of success, as he went from 7-3 to 27-3, failing to score maximum points in just one of those 20 matches (and that was a win by tech fall). McCormick followed up that streak with a medal finish at Clay’s Rotary tournament, taking fourth place there> He had two second-period pins in taking the District 4 crown, and reached the semis at Region 1, having to come back for a rematch of his District 4 final with a state berth on the line. McCormick went 0-2 at states, but both of those losses came against eventual placewinners, with his first-round loss against the state champ.

2017-18 captain: Just one returner in 2017-18 for the Tornadoes will have a district title and a win at regions under his belt, and that will be junior 170 Jesse Burch, whom we didn’t see until January this season. Burch tried his luck at a couple of different weights, going up as high as 195 during the course of the year, but he still put together a solid season, winning seven of eight matches at one point. After bouncing up to 182, Burch came back to 170 for the post-season, needing barely more than two full periods to win the District 4 title and winning with another quick fall in the first round of regions. From there, things went kind of sideways, as Burch didn’t get to Saturday, but he stands to be one of Bradford’s most experienced wrestlers going into November.

Heaton’s Hero: Sophomore 126 Aaron Blazs had a win by fall in his first scheduled event of the season for Bradford, that falling on December 13. There would not be another contested victory in Blazs’ win column for another month, but nevertheless he continued to keep on battling, picking up a few solid wins in the middle of January. Blazs wasn’t in the lineup for the Tornadoes’ appearance at Parker Duals at the end of that month or for Clay’s Rotary tournament, but he did return for the post-season, with one 20-second fall sufficient enough to extend his season for an additional week, as that pin did get him qualified for regions. With some off-season work and a full year next year, he should improve, but coming back after some tough losses makes Aaron Blazs the Heaton’s Hero for Bradford.

Projected returning starters for 2017-18 (with year in school as they’ll be next year): Brian Foster (sophomore, 120, district 3rd, did not compete at regions); Blazs (sophomore, 126, district 4th, 0-2 at regions); Logan Montemurro (senior, 160, 1 match from regions); Burch (senior, 170, district runnerup, 1-2 at regions). Also: Thomas LeVasseur (junior, 120, did not compete in post-season); Tyler Lussier (sophomore, 132, did not compete in post-season); Jacob Hake (senior, 170, did not compete in post-season).

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The Season 2016-17: Westside

WESTSIDE

You can see everything I have on the Wolverines in 2016-17 here –>  WESTSIDE

Win/loss record: 12-5 in dual meets. Please review the attached document for a summary of the Wolverines’ performance in IBT events.

Season in a nutshell: Westside had another solid season this past year, with a few more matches than in years past, and that certainly benefited the Wolverine wrestlers, many of whom made substantial gains from the previous season. Westside was right in the mix for top honors at North Florida Duals, and won the Army Duals two-day dual tournament at Terry Parker in mid-January. The Wolverines had solid finishes in IBT tournaments as well, with a top-six at Westside Kiwanis, third at Gateway, fourth at 5 Star and runnerup finish in their eight-team roundrobin event in February. Westside took a solid third at District 3 and just missed the top 10 at Region 1. The Wolverines do lose three critical starters going into next year, and need more of a lower-weight presence next year, but their upper weights look to be pretty solid.

2016-17 MVP: The heavyweight spot in the Wolverine lineup has been rock-solid for the past five or six years, and this year was no different, as senior Tariq Hookfin was rock solid for Westside. Hookfin won his first 13 matches, including a first at Westside Kiwanis, and his only loss prior to regions was to an out-of-state wrestler at the Ridgeview Rumble just before the holiday break. Hookfin won his first Gateway Conference title in January, adding a 5 Star victory the following weekend and Westside Duals title the weekend after that. Hookfin also won his first district title at Raines (his second IBT win of the season there), and it took only a loss to the top-ranked and eventual state champion — in overtime — to stop Hookfin at Clay. At states, Hookfin was a Saturday qualifier, going 2-2 in the tournament, but came up just one match short of the podium, losing by decision to Lake Highland in the blood round.

2017-18 captain: I really could go in one of two directions here, and it would be no slight to the other to pick out junior 182 Calvin Altman as a Wolverine captain next year (I’m certain both wrestlers will be). Altman started somewhat slowly in December, with a 5-4 recrod through Westside Kiwanis, but then won 15 of his next 18 matches. Altman was fourth at Gateway and then had a solid runnerup effort at 5 Star, really putting things together at Westside Duals, where he won his first in-season title, following that up with a second at District 3, where he needed just 1:04 to take the bracket. Altman then reached the Region 1 semis, where only a takedown was the difference in a loss there, and then was knocked out in the region’s blood round. He’s transformed his game over the last two years and should be a very solid senior for the Wolverines.

Heaton’s Hero: Sophomore first-year starter Jakius Hunt (195) found rough footing in competing with the varsity, but didn’t let that deter him, as he competed in every event for the Wolverines. While half of his wins came by forfeit, he was able to contribute in almost every event toward his team’s overall score, except for 5 Star. The competition did get tougher for Hunt, who was 2-9 after his one Gateway consi-round victory, but he didn’t quit despite the adversity. With off-season work, he should improve, and with the effort he put in this season, Jakius Hunt is the Heaton’s Hero for Westside High School.

Projected returning starters for 2017-18 (with year in school as they’ll be next year): Jeremey Hedden (sophomore, 126, 0-2 at districts); Angelo Philpot (sophomore, 132, district 3rd, 1-2 at regions); Matthew Gathright (senior, 160, district 4th, 0-2 at regions); John Jones (senior, 170, district champ, 1 match from states); Altman (senior, 182, district champ, 1 match from states); Jakius Hunt (junior, 195, 1 match from regions); Anthony Chirino (sophomore, 220, 0-2 at districts). Also: Demarcus Wilson (junior, 106, did not compete in post-season); Braxton Henry (sophomore, 120, did not compete in post-season); Tyree Smith (junior, 126, did not compete in post-season); Travon Mincey (senior, 285, did not compete in post-season).

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The Season 2016-17: Wakulla

WAKULLA

You can see everything I have on the War Eagles in 2016-17 here –>  WAKULLA

Win/loss record: 23-1 in dual meets. Please review the attached document for a summary of the Bulldogs’ performance in IBT events.

Season in a nutshell: The Tallahassee area’s strongest program survived some serious challenges to that supremacy this year. The War Eagles cruised to 14 straight dual wins, taking dual-tournament titles at Chiles and at Ft Walton Beach’s Beast of the Beach, with very solid top-six showings in the IBT format as well (sixth at Border Wars, fourth at Capital City) to close out that month. January saw Wakulla take its only blemish in duals to start the month, but the War Eagles would rally, winning Lincoln’s Trojan Invitational mid-month and then posting the highest Class 1A team finish at the Flagler Rotary on the final weekend of the month. Wakulla would add a duals title of their own on February 4, but their biggest move was retaining ownership of the District 2 title — even in the face of an “expert’s” pick — and pulling together a runnerup effort at Region 1 and eighth-place showing at states. That’s seven IBT tournaments, all in the top eight, and three dual-tournament wins. Although there will be some big losses from the senior class that moves on, Wakulla will return nine post-season starters, five additional key contributors, and tradition.

2016-17 MVP: Just one 1A school in north Florida had a state champion in its midst, and when the smoke cleared on states, that school was Wakulla, as senior 285 Jacob Marin entered the season as the solid favorite to win in Kissimmee. Early on, it seemed as though the one wrestler most likely to defeat Marin might have been his own teammate, sophomore Darius Wilkins. Marin won by forfeit over Wilkins at Border Wars, then forfeited to Wilkins at Capital City the following weekend. The two War Eagle heavies contested a match at Lincoln, and Marin took his only loss of the season there. There would be close matches, some incredibly close ones (three went into some form of overtime), after that, but Marin was equal to the task in all of them, with just the one loss, a regular-season IBT win at Border Wars, District 2, Region 1 and state titles. Looking forward to seeing Marin wrestle at the #NextLevel.

2017-18 captain: Junior 138 Micah Lanier reached the second day at Border Wars to start his season, with three losses to out-of-state wrestlers, and then would not lose again for another five weeks, rolling up 14 straight victories. After that run of wins was snapped in a mid-January dual meet, Lanier did find some struggles, with a 1-2 showing at Trojan Invitational. He had a better performance at Flagler Rotary, but an early loss meant he had to win four matches to fight his way on to the podium there. Lanier was 5-0 while wrestling a weight up for the War Eagles at the Wakulla Duals, but did struggle some in February. He did finish second at District 2, losing only to an individual state medalist in the final, but then went 2-2, a takedown short of wrestling for a state berth. Midway through the season, though, against some tough competition, Lanier was one of Wakulla’s best, and will provide senior leadership next season.

Heaton’s Hero: Even in a school rich in wrestling tradition, there are some who will need some time in order to make their own mark within that tradition. For freshman 152 Ian Walker didn’t pick up a contested win until Beast of the Beach, but even after that was achieved, finding sustained success was a bit tough to do. Through the Trojan Invitational, Walker was standing at 5-13 with just a month to go in the season, but he did start to turn things around, going 11-7 the rest of the way. That included a four-match win streak at Wakulla Duals. With just four wrestlers in the 1A-District 2 field, Walker was going to get to regions as long as he made weight, but he contributed to his team’s overall point total in that event, and at regions, where he also picked up a first-round win. For that bounceback from a tough start, Ian Walker is the Heaton’s Hero for Wakulla.

Projected returning starters for 2017-18 (with year in school as they’ll be next year): Matthew Owen (sophomore, 106, district 3rd, region 4th, 0-2 at states); Rolin Malik (senior, 120, district champ, 1 match from states); Blake Reeves (sophomore, 132, district runnerup, 1 match from states); Lanier (senior, 138, district runnerup, 2-2 at regions); Noah Wilson (sophomore, 145, district 3rd, 1-2 at regions); Walker (sophomore, 152, district 3rd, 1-2 at regions); Trevor Hart (sophomore, 170, district runnerup, region runnerup, 0-2 at states); Andrew Annand (junior, 182, district runnerup, region runnerup, 1-2 at states); John Trevor Hinsey (sophomore, 195, district runnerup, 1-2 at regions). Also: Joseph Grix (senior, 138, did not compete in post-season); Tyler Cordle (senior, 170, did not compete in post-season); Eli Yates (senior, 170, did not compete in post-season); Chayton Bussey (senior, 220, did not compete in post-season); Wilkins (junior, 285, did not compete in post-season, NHSCA all-American).

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#NextLevel2017-18: Wakulla’s Smith Signs

Signings 4-26-17 004

Wakulla senior Larry Smith, a four-time District 2 and Region 1 champion and three-time Class 1A state medalist for the War Eagles, signs his letter of intent to attend NCAA Division II Seton Hill University, located in Greensburg, PA, and wrestle for the Griffins in the 2017-18. Smith is accompanied by his mother, Colleen Smith, and by coach William Pafford (photo submitted by William Pafford).

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The Season 2016-17: Marianna

MARIANNA

You can see everything I have on the Bulldogs in 2016-17 here –>  MARIANNA

Win/loss record: 11-15 in dual meets. Please review the attached document for a summary of the Bulldogs’ performance in IBT events.

Season in a nutshell: With a transfer or two altering the mix even before the season began, the Bulldogs were also affected by a mid-season move-out by one of their two top returners, and it was a move that put a dent in Marianna’s uppers. Three kids that started the season with the team didn’t see much, if any, action beyond December. And yet, the Bulldogs soldiered on, with better performances in IBTs than in dual events, where Marianna’s solid kids could shine and help the overall team effort. That led to top-half showings at Gator Brawl, District 1, and right in the mix of the top half at both Region 1 and at states. Marianna will have six post-season starters returning, but if a few others that had double-figure matches also return, the Bulldogs could have a base to build on in when practices start late this fall.

2016-17 MVP: Senior 152 Max Martinez took three early losses at Border Wars (although he did avenge one of them), and took a fourth loss in the finals at Capital City. Martinez would not lose again until the District 1 final at Wewahitchka. In late February. That’s 31 straight wins, with a title effort at Lincoln’s Trojan Invitational, a title win at Gator Brawl, and 22 pins during that streak (including seven in a row at one point, all against Northwest Matmen opponents). The loss was a one-point loss to a wrestler that Martinez had beaten twice before, by a combined total of three points. Martinez took third at Region 1, Marianna’s lone state qualifier, with his only loss coming to another team MVP in the semis. At states, Martinez completed his high school career with a podium finish, falling to a Lake Highland wrestler in the quarters and then winning twice on the back to secure his state medal.

2017-18 captain: Of the three seniors coming back in 2017-18, Ethan Ellis had the most consistent success over the past couple of seasons. There were no 31-match win streaks over the season, but Ellis (138) did win five in a row at one stretch of December/January, eight at another late in the regular season and six in a row that carried into the post-season. Although there were no titles in Ellis’ season, he did reach the second day at Border Wars (much harder than it sounds), and placed fifth at Gator Brawl. That solid prep in December and January led to a finals appearance at District 1 (after a revenge win in the semifinals). After taking a quarterfinal loss at Region 1 to the eventual runnerup, Ellis got all the way back to the blood round, where he was knocked out by an eventual state medalist.

Heaton’s Hero: It’s always tough on an inexperienced upperweight to find his footing, particularly when an older, very solid practice partner moved away, removing one of your best chances, right there in the room, to get better. So sophomore 182 Jonah Mercer had his share of struggles from the start of the season and most of the way through it. He did not compete at Beast of the Beach, but, after wrestling a weight up for Trojan Invitational, Mercer earned his first victory there over a district rival, then added two more wins at Gator Brawl, both of those against region rivals and both pins. That would be it until the final week of the regular season for any victories. But Mercer stayed in the lineup from the beginning of the season until the end, and at times was often the biggest Bulldog on the mat in so doing. For that persistence, Jonah Mercer is the Heaton’s Hero for Marianna.

Projected returning starters for 2017-18 (with year in school as they’ll be next year): Neal Smith (junior, 113, district runnerup, 1-2 at regions); E. Ellis (senior, 138, district runnerup, 1 match from states); Gunner Nebel (senior, 160, district 4th, 0-2 at regions); Dillon Melvin (senior, 170, district 3rd, 0-2 at regions); Mercer (junior, 182, 1 match from regions); Jason Rudd (sophomore, 285, district 3rd, 1-2 at regions). Also: Cooper Large (senior, 126, did not compete in post-season); Damone Rolle (sophomore, 132, did not compete in post-season); Brandon Thomas (junior, 138, did not compete in post-season); Dee Dubose (sophomore, 152, did not compete in post-season); Corey Davis (sophomore, 182, did not compete in post-season).

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Dates Are Filling

This is going to get interesting. More dates and events are going up on my calendar, which is just for the northern part of the state. I expect a lot of competition for dates and teams as the spring and summer wears on.

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The Season 2016-17: Buchholz

BUCHHOLZ

You can see everything I have on the Bobcats in 2016-17 here –>  BUCHHOLZ

Win/loss record: 20-6 in dual meets. Please review the attached document for a summary of the Bobcats’ performance in IBT events.

Season in a nutshell: With one notable exception in 2016-17, this was in all respects a solidly-successful season for Buchholz. The Bobcasts opened with a 6-2 record at Weeki Wachee and had a one-point loss mar what was otherwise a perfect day at home and fourth-place effort in a very strong home duals field just before Christmas. Buchholz also fared well in IBTs throughout the year, with a third at Westside Kiwanis on the second weekend of December, top-10 efforts at Tournament of Champions in early January and at George Jenkins’ IBT in late January, plus a solid 13th in the 40-team Rotary tournament hosted by Clay in February. Buchholz did take three losses at St. Cloud’s Milton-Winter Duals, but those all came against top-five teams in their respective regions. The Bobcats additionally rolled to yet another city title in January as well. Districts, however, were the lone blemish on the Buchholz resume, as they saw it, taking fifth at 3A-District 1. Still, though, Buchholz tied for 10th at Region 1 and was one point short of tying for a top-20 states finish. The Bobcats will return 10 post-season starters and another four wrestlers with key mat experience, so that is a good base to work from in 2017-18. Just two out of that group of 14 will be seniors.

2016-17 MVP: Senior 132 Gant Moore closed out his high school career with something not many wrestlers are able to achieve — a 50+-win season, along with a fourth-place state medal. He won 16 of his first 17 matches (including streaks of six and 10 wins, with the only loss against a multiple-time state qualifier at a weight class up). Moore won a Westside Kiwanis title, lost to a state champion from Lake Highland in finishing second at Lyman, and finished third at Tournament of Champions (falling only to an eventual 3A state champ in the semis). He had a 34-4 record when he dropped to 132 for George Jenkins’ IBT, where he would stay for the rest of the season, taking third there as well. He would finish the season with 61 matches even while not competing at Clay’s Rotary, with the Bobcats’ lone title at District 1 and a third-place effort at Region 1 (his one loss came in the quarters, by one point, to an eventual non-state qualifier). Moore lost to the eventual state runnerup in the quarters at Kissimmee, taking three wins on the back to reach the third-place match, where a very solid career drew to a close.

2017-18 captain: Sophomore 106 Bryan Perkins would not quite reach the 60-match mark that his older teammate did, but he got incredibly close along the way and probably would have gone over 60 had he competed at the Bobcat Duals. Perkins would place in just about every larger event in which he did compete, though, with a third at Westside Kiwanis, eighth at Lyman, fifth at Tournament of Champions, eighth at George Jenkins and coming up just one match short of placing at Clay’s Rotary. After taking third at District 1, Perkins would make it to the show thanks to his solid close at regions, as he reached the semifinals and then avenged his district loss with a victory in the third-place match. There are a lot of juniors that will be in the mix for the Bobcats over the next year or two, and Perkins will have an opportunity to get a couple of his classmates on the journey to states with him.

Heaton’s Hero: It wasn’t until his 16th match of the season — contested during his team’s home duals tournament — that sophomore 113 Hunter Griffin picked up his first contested victory, and yet Griffin was 8-8 at that point, as several early forfeits in his favor helped his team. But his enthusiasm for his own improvement, as well as his teammates’ successes, didn’t go unnoticed, even as his competition intensified. Griffin would go on to get four more contested victories (all of them by fall), with three of those coming at the Milton-Winter Duals in St. Cloud and the fourth in the regular-season finale for the Bobcats. Griffin would go 0-2 at District 1, and only three of his 22 losses would be considered close (two 1-point losses and the third by four), but nevertheless, Hunter Griffin exhibited all the qualities of a Heaton’s Hero for Buchholz.

Projected returning starters for 2017-18 (with year in school as they’ll be next year): Perkins (junior, 106, district 3rd, region 3rd, 1 match from state medal); Griffin (junior, 113, 1 match from regions); William Green-Church (junior, 120, 1 match from regions); DeAngelo Fletcher (junior, 126, 1 match from regions); Michael Rollins (junior, 138, 1 match from regions); Tracen Ransdell (junior, 145, district 4th, 0-2 at regions); Jordan Mobley (senior, 152, district 4th, 1 match from states); Armando Acosta (sophomore, 182, district 4th, 2-2 at regions); Nevan Burney (sophomore, 195, 0-2 at districts); Aaron Menden (senior, 285, 0-2 at districts). Also: Brandon Thomas (sophomore, 126, did not compete in post-season); William Kverneland (sophomore, 126, did not compete in post-season); Kevin Smith (junior, 145, did not compete in post-season); Seth Verdote (sophomore, 170, did not compete in post-season).

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